If inbound is not working for your business yet, turn your results around with these proven rules for success.
Inbound marketing can be frustrating. Despite promises of reliable results and guaranteed growth, sometimes it just doesn’t seem to work.
We've specialised in B2B inbound marketing for several years now. In that time we've identified common reasons for poor results and the essential ingredients in success.
The reasons for poor performance nearly always lie in how inbound is being applied, not that it is the wrong strategy to follow.
The problems often relate to forgetting the buyer somehow. Forgetting their preferences, or forgetting they are free-willed humans, just like us.
In this post, we look at why, in order to succeed with inbound, you need to pay special attention to:
- Creating truly valuable content
- Optimising your blog for conversions
- Optimising your website for conversions
- Improving the clarity of your website
- Aligning sales and marketing
- Measuring inbound success correctly
- Persisting with content production
So if your inbound marketing isn't generating the results you hoped for, take a look at this guide and solve the most common problems.
Creating truly valuable content
A leading indicator of overall inbound success is how much organic traffic your blog content can attract.
The challenge that many businesses face is creating content that holds real value for search engine users.
Attracting more visitors to your website calls for you to tap into the psyche of pre-purchase buyers who are simply researching their problems online.
Take a look at your blog and ask yourself, does it help anyone?
If your blog posts do not explain or solve challenges your buyers are having before they purchase, they will not align to the problem-oriented queries that they are entering into search engines. As a result they will not be effective at bringing them into your site.
Let's be clear; pre-purchase buyers do not care about your business. If your blog consists only of company news, latest hires and products updates, it will not be the foundation of inbound success that it should.
If you struggle to shift the content of your blog posts towards being more helpful, take the advice of Gary Vaynerchuk; "Stop creating, start documenting."
Being creative is hard. But documenting the things you do, discoveries you make and problems you solve is much easier. And these types of posts will often drive more traffic than any others.
Optimising your blog for conversions
Blogs are excellent at bringing visitors into your website. But blog posts on their own will not make your website convert.
If you want to turn anonymous blog readers into known leads, you need to provide relevant ways and reasons for them to convert.
Blog posts with no clear call to action (CTA), or with CTAs the point to other blog posts or pages that do not convert, are a wasted opportunity to generate leads.
The majority of your blog post readers will be at the top of the funnel so the best performing CTAs will be ones that offer content that is helpful at this early stage.
CTAs that promote middle or bottom of the funnel offers should be reserved for posts that speak directly to those stages, placed on the pages of your main website, or shown to known leads who have already converted on top of the funnel content.
Make sure that every blog post has a CTA pointing to a relevant and valuable conversion offer.
If you do not have the content for these conversion offers, this must be your next priority. Writing an in-depth ebook or whitepaper that fully describes a topic is a key practice in successful inbound marketing and one that should not be put off.
Optimising your website for conversions
You also need to look at the conversion points throughout your main website.
Nothing is less conducive to lead generation than a solitary contact us page.
'Contact us' is so vague; it provides no value, does not set expectations and puts all the effort on to the buyer - making them seek out the page in the first place and setting the terms of their conversion themselves. With all this friction, it is little wonder that contact pages rarely perform well as lead generators.
The situation you should be aiming for is that your buyer is never far from a specific and relevant conversion point that can help them with their purchase decision.
There are two good ways to do this.
- Put a contact form on every page, in the footer. It turns out that visitors are far more likely to contact you if they do not have to leave the page they are on to do so.
- Define other, more specific bottom-of-the-funnel conversion offers, such as consultations, audits and demonstrations, and put CTAs for these on relevant pages throughout your site.
Improving the clarity of your website
In B2B inbound marketing particularly, your website plays a pivotal role in your success.
A poor website, in terms of design or clarity, reduces the number of visitors who download content or make contact, by any means.
The reality is that all your best leads will use your website as a key resource when deciding how to engage with you. Content will help you drive you more traffic, generate more leads and keep them coming back, but your main website will determine if they become an opportunity or not.
Take your homepage for example - what's the first thing a new visitor will see and read?
Often the first message on a homepage is obscure nonsense that leaves visitors none the wiser as to the purpose of the company who's website they are on, and unsure as to if they should stay or not.
A far better approach is to simply state what your value proposition (what you do and who you do it for) clearly and concisely. It may not feel clever, but it will be much more effective at getting visitors to stay on your site.
The same principle, using clear messages over confusing ones, applies throughout your website - your sitemap, navigation, page titles, page content, CTAs and conversion offers should all favour clarity over cleverness.
Putting clarity first, every step of the way, maximises the likelihood that the right visitors, once on your site, will stay and convert.
Aligning sales and marketing
One you've sorted out content, conversion offers and your website, you need to ensure that any inbound leads are being given the proper attention by aligning sales and marketing.
While it is true that marketing is responsible for a larger part of the buying process than before, in most cases buyers still need sales' help to become customers.
Make sure that inbound leads are assigned to the right people, that those people are notified, and they know where to find and how to interpret inbound lead data.
Prompt follow-up and accurate record keeping by sales will help to ensure that inbound ROI is realised in the shortest time possible.
Measuring inbound success correctly
Measuring the success of your inbound marketing by the number of opportunities and sales that originate through inbound channels only, is a mistake.
If you are executing inbound marketing well, one of the first things to change will be the number of direct email, website or telephone enquiries you receive from bottom-of-the-funnel prospects - the result of improved SEO and a better-converting website.
Top of the funnel leads are valuable to you too, but it could be a year or more before those turn into a steady source of opportunities, particularly given the length of B2B buying cycles.
Inbound marketing will increase the number of visitors, enquiries and opportunities you receive, even if they can not be directly measured inbound terms.
Persisting with content production
Inbound marketing can take considerable time to take effect, and this can be frustrating for companies just starting out.
In B2B especially, where long and complex sales cycles are commonplace, it can take a year or more before you have inbound results that you can be really proud of.
But persistence really pays off.
Research by HubSpot showed that businesses with 10+ landing pages/conversion offers saw a 55% increase in lead generation compared to businesses with 1-10.
Image source: HubSpot
Get beyond 40 landing pages and lead generation was shown to increase exponentially.
The same is true of blog posts.
HubSpot's data shows that while website traffic growth from the first 20 blog posts published is limited, things improve at 20 to 50 and grow exponentially at 50+.
Image source: HubSpot
To see these types of results, you need to persist through the meagre ones that you will see initially. There's simply no faster alternative.
From frustration to elation
The reason that the inbound marketing movement is successful is because it is truly buyer-centric.
Inbound puts the buyer's needs, preferences and process and the heart of all decision making.
If you forget this, and simply perform the movements without the buyer in mind, your content will not reach them and results will not be forthcoming.
Keep the buyer at the centre of everything you do, and follow the guidelines provided here, however, and you will enjoy steadily growing results that compound over time.
You'll never look back.